Saturday, September 3, 2011

Meet Me In St. Louis

I cannot believe I’ll be flying to New York exactly one week from today.  September is absolutely the most spectacular month to be in the Greek islands.  The summer heat continues, the water is warm, the crowds are gone, and the locals are finally able to catch their breath.  But I promised my Murder is Everywhere blogmates I’d join them at Bouchercon, and a promise is a promise.  So, goodbye Mykonos, hello Saint Louis.

Hmm, let me say that a couple of more times, just so I can get in the right mood.  Goodbye Mykonos, hello, Saint Louis.  GoodbyeMykonoshelloSaintLouis, gdbymyknshllsntlis …  

If truth be told—but I’m a fiction writer—I owe a lot to St. Louis.  It’s where my maternal grandfather settled when he first came to the United States.  He moved down river to Kentucky where my mother was born, before moving the family up river to Pittsburgh where I was begat … but it all started in St. Louie.  Thanks guys, this Bud’s for you.

Not my ancestors
I also think it’s a good sign that the Oscar nominated and #2 top grossing film of the year of the birth of someone very close to me was the musical, “Meet Me in St. Louis.”  The title tells it all, at least for the film’s star and her director who met through the film and married.  Yes, film buffs, you are correct.  Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli owe it all St. Louis.  I wonder if that sort of makes Liza and I related?

Historically, the film was based on a series of short stories in the New Yorker written by Susan Benson, and the film introduced “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” two all time classics that I’m sure I’ll be humming throughout my stay.

My hometown shares a lot with St. Louis.  Both sit on mighty rivers, St. Louis the Mississippi, Pittsburgh the Ohio.  Both share claim to being “gateways to the west” (St. Louis has the Gateway Arch, Pittsburgh the Gateway Clipper fleet of boats), St. Louis sports fans have the Cardinals, Blues, and Rams, Pittsburgh fans the Pirates, Pens, and Steelers.  If you don’t know what sort of sports they represent, don’t worry.  Ask anyone from either town and you’ll hear it all.  And more. 

But if you happen to ask in a bar, remember St. Louis has its august Budweiser, and Pittsburghers their Iron City (though some hoist a Rolling Rock from nearby Latrobe, Pennsylvania).  And they’re both about the same size.  The cities I mean.  The beers too. 

When I think about it, Bouchercon will be a homecoming of sorts.  Not just because St. Louis is a cozy town that reminds me of were I grew up; it’s where I’ll find my friends and make new ones. 

Bye bye Mykonos
Bottom line: if you must leave the Aegean for a few weeks during paradise season, Saint Louis is a terrific place to spend your time.  SaintLouisisaterrificplacetospendyourtime, sntlsstrrfcplctspndyrtm.



  1. Are you trying to convince yourself about St. Louis being a terrific place to spend your time or are you working on an ad campaign to encourage tourist dollars? How does Mykonos fair in comparison to St. Louis in that category?

    Yes, I know that St. Louis is much bigger so it is an unfair comparison so I will rephrase - are tourists more likely to jump into the Aegean for a swim or into the Mississippi?

    According to the 2010 census, St. Louis has a population of 319,294. The city of Boston, not the metropolitan area, has a population of 617,594. Considering the physical size of the city, this figure indicates that the residents of the city can reach out and touch someone next door by extending an arm out the window. This leads to intense loyalty to all professional sports because to support another team would be suicide. Who would dare root for a team from Pittsburgh when your neighbors are all wearing Red Sox jerseys?

    The census doesn't reflect that Boston is a city of transients. We must have the largest population of students per square inch than any other city in the country. There are colleges, grad schools, professional schools of law and medicine, and schools of just about anything else that can qualify someone for a student loan. Law students come, take the Massachusetts Bar Exam, and, if they pass, they stay because no one wants to take the bar more than once. (I lived with a crazy person one summer who spent so many hours writing out flashcards that there was no way she would ever have the time to read all of them). Recent graduates of medical schools, whether in Boston or not, arrive in the area for residencies in some of the best hospitals in the world. When finished, many leave because hospitals everywhere are interested in doctors who did residencies at Children's Hospital, ranked number one in the world, and Massachusetts General Hospital, ranking at the top of some list. A realistic census of the population of Boston should be taken in the middle of June. The tide of flows out at the end of May and it doesn't flow back in until Labor Day weekend. If anyone wants to experience insanity, try driving around Boston this weekend when the flood of students flows back in. Where else can you see someone's mother standing in a vacant parking space while the driver of the possession-loaded car tries to navigate the very narrow, "you can't get there from here" streets to get back to that parking space that is located only three or four blocks from the new apartment?

    According to the 2010 US census, Pittsburgh has a population of 305,704, approximately the same number as we have students. All of the people of Pittsburgh don't move on the same weekend.

    It is only in ridiculous inter-league play that the Sox have to play the Pittsburgh Pirates or the St. Louis Cardinals. Apparently neither city has heard of basketball.

    On the subject of sports, does anyone want to compare and contrast the quarterbacks of the Steelers, the Rams, and the Patriots? In name recognition and magazine covers, the Patriots win.

  2. Okay, Beth, you've convinced me that Bouchercon would be better placed in Boston. But, if you think for one moment that you're going to lure me into a discussion of the relative merits of any city's sports, fugedaboutit. I'd rather discuss the "one true religion." I know, in Boston that's basketball.

    We who were born and raised on lousy Pittsburgh football teams have learned humility...after winning SIX SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONSHIPS. Sorry, I didn't mean to shout.

    By the way, an interesting story on that subject. When I was in law school, a fellow student had been away from school for a few days and I asked him where he'd been. He said that he and his dad had been to Miami (I believe) trying to set up something that they hoped might work as a way of generating more interest in football. Yep, it was Chuck Sullivan and the Super Bowl came out of that trip. I think it paid missing those classes.

    But more importantly, but for a Bostonian there never would have been a Super Bowl and the PITTSBURGH STEELERS WOULDN'T HAVE WON THOSE SIX CHAMPIONSHIPS. Whoops, sorry again.


  3. It never ceases to amaze me. Boston is the Scientology of cities. They've got a Blog Squad that has a Google alert on every city in the world, and every time someone writes a nice piece about, say, St. Louis, some anonymous member of the Blog Squad comes swooping in and -- what? That was Beth? OUR Beth? Well, I take it all back. In fact, I said in an e-mail to her not two days ago that I was sure B'con would wind up in Boston sooner or later.

    Looking forward to seeing you in, um, City X, Jeff. And Beth, we're ALL sorry you won't be there with us.

  4. "Scientology of cities"? I want to make sure I'm sitting at the other end of the panel, Tim, when the unblinking stares start coming at you.

    And yes, Beth, we ALL definitely will miss you.


  5. My daughter is home for the weekend and she took over the laptop. It gave me some time to think about Boston as the "Scientology of cities". Is this suggesting that we all live in the past? Maybe; the eighteenth century owed a lot to the hotheads of the colony. Or is it that we are already to jump on anyone who might consider being disrespectful to the Athens of the new world?

    Jeff, the one true religion in Boston is not basketball. It is baseball. The locals have not recovered from winning the World Series. The inability to do so for so long defined us. We are long-suffering, patient, willing to endure humiliation for the greater good. All those years, when the Yankees were the consistently the winners of that championship, we waited for our turn. When it came, we were shocked!! Were we no longer allowed to hate the Yankees?

    Nope, we still hate the Yankees and, although the team just fell out of first place, most likely Boston will be in the playoffs and maybe there will be another World Series win. But nothing beats wanting to win and then suffering together when, again, the prize was lost.

    As to Bouchercon, I am deeply disappointed that I won't be there. I can't imagine a funnier and more erudite discussion than that provided by the Murder is Everywhere bloggers. I can easily imagine how disappointed Dan must feel that he is going to miss the camaraderie and the witty rapport.

    Tim, I hope Bouchercon gets to Boston before I'm too old to get there.

  6. Jeff-I'm of the New York Giants time-football, of course, and I remember Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, and Lynn Swann (sp). They bedeviled us all. However, with the exception of the winters, Boston is my favorite city other than San Francisco. It's like walking in history, and beautiful. And all those students give it an energy that is truly remarkable. But Beth, the drivers are crazy, except for you, of course. I don't remember scientology, but I do remember the Christian Science building. I wish I were going to Bouchercon, if only to hear you guys duke it out. Mykonos will be there when it's over.


  7. The drivers are crazy but it isn't completely their fault. Unlike other cities, Boston saw no need to develop a grid system for the streets as it expanded beyond the North End (Paul Revere's neighborhood). Instead, the original paths used to take livestock to graze on the Boston Common were extended into the new neighborhoods. They weren't made wider or straighter, they were just made longer.

    Boston doesn't have street planners. Instead they have puzzle makers who make it interesting for visitors and natives alike by changing the names of streets from one side of an intersection to another.

    Add to that the rule not known to outsiders. Men must never to use directional signals.

    It is no wonder that Boston encourages its reputation as a walkable city.

  8. Beth so sorry we won't see you in St. Louis but we've got a little something for you...and that's all I'll say or I'll get in big trouble...

  9. Beth, how foolish of me to forget the Red Sox. I guess it's all those years living in NYC. No, I was never a Yankee fan. In fact, on December 31, 1972 I lost all interest in baseball and never really followed it again.

    And having lived in Boston for three years I must agree with Lil on the drivers in Boston. However in defense of Boston (am I beginning to sound like a politician here?), Pittsburgh streets were laid out much as Boston's and with as many visitors/students in Boston as there are at any given time they simply may not know what they're doing (driving wise, not in coming to Boston). But for true insanity, Lil, come see the in-season driving on Mykonos. Better yet, don't. It ain't safe to even watch. By the way, Lil, I agree with your observation on SF and BOS. The cities are similar in many ways.

    Yes, Cara, BIG:).

  10. Cara, that's not fair.

    If it were not for Murder is Everywhere, I would not have started Murder by Type. I enjoy doing mine, but your's makes my day much more interesting.

    I can't thank all of you enough for being so responsive and supportive of the blog and what I try to do with it. The goal from the beginning was to draw attention to the authors on Murder is Everywhere because you all deserve hordes of fans clamoring for your books. And then the blog grew from there.

    The blog has led me to so many writers who I might not have found otherwise. Nothing is better than reading a very good book and the eight authors on Murder is Everywhere just can't write fast enough.

    Thank you.

  11. Boston has the most confusing Streets maybe, but Minneapolis drivers are terrible - slow in the fast lane; stopping at the bottom on freeway on-ramps; ignoring the red at traffic lights (or robots, as we call them in South Africa).

    Beth, I will be doing 2 events in Boston in the last week of September. Whether you can get to one of them or not, I'd like to get together. Will miss you in St. Louis. Stan

  12. Hi Jeff - I love the photo of not your family. See you soon.

    Boston has my vote for Bouchercon.


  13. It looks like it's going to be a hot time in the old town for B-con. See ya'll there.


  14. Beth, I didn't know those things about Boston's streets. I just loved the city. I was there in the late sixties and visited in the seventies. It was just wonderful to explore. Ah, Jeff, would that I could visit Mykonos. I would take a bus :)